Somehow it’s already June with many educators and administrators gearing up for the end of the school year and trying to give graduates a good send off, while also having to contemplate the beginning of the next school year and all the decisions that entails. Due to timeline and distribution complexities created by the pandemic many schools are having to make choices about outfitting their learning environments for September right now – and very quickly. That is a lot of pressure on educators and administrators at a time when there is so much else that needs their attention as well. So although it’s understandable that these decisions may not be getting the full consideration they need, unfortunately the impact on students may be a negative one that affects them for many years to come.
What we don’t want is the integrity of the learning space lost because of the necessity of decisions having to be made fast. In order to set students up for success they need learning environments that support them in their creativity and learning while also being healthy, safe and welcoming.
Our big question is, who is caring about the internal space? As a company and community, what can Natural Pod do to support those decision makers who in turn have the opportunity to support our learners and educators in having access to healthy, safe and inspiring spaces? Learning environments, and therefore learning furniture simply can’t be an afterthought if we want to create the kind of environments where students thrive. One thing we know for sure is that solutions are found in conversation, not spreadsheets or order forms, so that is where we encourage decision makers to start in order to find the best outcome.
If you are an educator or school administrator and you’re either needing to know more or have met challenges in creating your learning environment please reach out to us.
We also know that those challenges are often budgetary, and we will always meet you where you are. Oftentimes we find that new purchases aren’t even necessary, and through re-purposing furniture that already exists or by adding a few new pieces, a learning space can be transformed. Focusing on the core elements of your space, like flexible, collaborative tables and benches will provide the foundations for a better learning environment.
This is why we strongly encourage conversation as the way forward to uncover workable solutions. Our team can advise on how to succeed with a “less is more” approach, or how to repurpose the furniture you already have, or how to make furniture choices that will have longer term benefits within the same budget. In order to support students and educators please communicate the challenges you’re facing and let us help you find a great outcome. We really are here to support you!
Below are some guiding principles to help keep the integrity of student focused learning environments that often don’t require new purchases, but rather repurposing and re-envisaging.
Be more deliberate about furniture configuration
The aim is to have the flexibility to create both independent learning spaces and collaborative work areas. Start off by taking an inventory of what’s available to you and create your floor plan from there. Is the furniture, seating and storage being used efficiently? If not, consider repurposing, re-positioning them, or removing them. This will provide flexibility to try different seating options, like pushing a row of desks against a wall for an independent learning space or positioning them together to form a collaborative work space.
Allow room for movement
There is now lots of research to show that optimal learning is possible when students are able to move. Consider classroom configurations that allow ease of movement between different areas so students can discover how they learn best. Or, think about introducing standing desks. Make sure everyone has enough table space for their books or laptops so no-one is cramped.
Ditch the teacher desk
This may seem radical but teacher desks are remnants of a more traditional classroom design. They should be one the first items to reconsider when creating a student-centered learning environment. This idea of educators not having a set desk allows for a more student-centered collaborative style of teaching as well as a less hierarchical approach.
Utilize multi-purpose tables
If removing the large teacher desk isn’t an option, instead think about how could it be moved or repurposed to support a vision for a student-centered learning environment. Rectangular tables or extra desks, if they’re available and uncluttered, can be used for a designated space like collaborative or creative work.
Create clear sight-lines
Teachers and students should be able to see everyone else in the classroom. That may sound like an easy task in an open classroom, but projector carts, columns, or bookshelves can all present visual barriers. Ensuring a clear line of sight across the room is a way of encouraging student participation, especially during group discussions. When possible, having natural light or views of the outside surroundings, and particularly of nature, are shown to be highly beneficial to keep students calm and focused.
There is no prescribed method in which a classroom should be set up. Flexibility is key so it’s important to reassess the changes to see what is and isn’t working.